On its surface

… the story was a simple epic chronicling the fall of empire, but the people trapped inside the book reminded her of people she tried not to remember

Perhaps the only way to read a book is to people it with the faces we know, hate and love; there is always that curious sensation of recognition when a book seizes us, a feeling probably not unlike the child’s happy feeling of finding that the block in his hand fits perfectly the shape of a slot. Yes, that feeling is a childlike pleasure.

But what is that feeling when we recognize our own face on a character? Fresh hope, perhaps, false but fresh: we place these masks, our faces and others’, neatly on the phantoms that walk these pages, we watch — sometimes in delight, often with something approaching dismay — them repeat our follies and hope that they will somehow escape unscathed. No, there is no true pleasure in such escapism: what in fact happens is that we hope for as exact a facsimile as possible. If they escape the labyrinth, then it is a fairytale and ironically we are not charmed at all; if they wander into the jaws of the minotaur that haunts our dreams, if they lose the thread and falter, fail — then everything rings true, everything rings true.


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